1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Angli

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ANGLI, Anglii or Angles, a Teutonic people mentioned by Tacitus in his Germania (cap. 40), at the end of the 1st century. He gives no precise indication of their geographical position, but states that, together with six other tribes, including the Varini (the Warni of later times), they worshipped a goddess named Nerthus, whose sanctuary was situated on “an island in the Ocean.” Ptolemy in his Geography (ii. 11. § 15), half a century later, locates them with more precision between the Rhine, or rather perhaps the Ems, and the Elbe, and speaks of them as one of the chief tribes of the interior. Unfortunately, however, it is clear from a comparison of his map with the evidence furnished by Tacitus and other Roman writers that the indications which he gives cannot be correct. Owing to the uncertainty of these passages there has been much speculation regarding the original home of the Angli. One theory, which however has little to recommend it, is that they dwelt in the basin of the Saale (in the neighbourhood of the canton Engilin), from which region the Lex Angliorum et Werinorum hoc est Thuringorum is believed by many to have come. At the present time the majority of scholars believe that the Angli had lived from the beginning on the coasts of the Baltic, probably in the southern part of the Jutish peninsula. The evidence for this view is derived partly from English and Danish traditions dealing with persons and events of the 4th century (see below), and partly from the fact that striking affinities to the cult of Nerthus as described by Tacitus are to be found in Scandinavian, especially Swedish and Danish, religion. Investigations in this subject have rendered it very probable that the island of Nerthus was Sjaelland (Zealand), and it is further to be observed that the kings of Wessex traced their ancestry ultimately to a certain Scyld, who is clearly to be identified with Skiöldr, the mythical founder of the Danish royal family (Skiöldungar). In English tradition this person is connected with “Scedeland” (pl.), a name which may have been applied to Sjaelland as well as Skåne, while in Scandinavian tradition he is specially associated with the ancient royal residence at Leire in Sjaelland.

Bede states that the Angli before they came to Britain dwelt in a land called Angulus, and similar evidence is given by the Historia Brittonum. King Alfred and the chronicler Æthelweard identified this place with the district which is now called Angel in the province of Schleswig (Slesvig), though it may then have been of greater extent, and this identification agrees very well with the indications given by Bede. Full confirmation is afforded by English and Danish traditions relating to two kings named Wermund (q.v.) and Offa (q.v.), from whom the Mercian royal family were descended, and whose exploits are connected with Angel, Schleswig and Rendsburg. Danish tradition has preserved record of two governors of Schleswig, father and son, in their service, Frowinus (Freawine) and Wigo (Wig), from whom the royal family of Wessex claimed descent. During the 5th century the Angli invaded this country (see Britain, Anglo-Saxon), after which time their name does not recur on the continent except in the title of the code mentioned above.

The province of Schleswig has proved exceptionally rich in prehistoric antiquities which date apparently from the 4th and 5th centuries. Among the places where these have been found, special mention should be made of the large cremation cemetery at Borgstedterfeld, between Rendsburg and Eckernförde, which has yielded many urns and brooches closely resembling those found in heathen graves in England. Of still greater importance are the great deposits at Thorsbjaerg (in Angel) and Nydam, which contained large quantities of arms, ornaments, articles of clothing, agricultural implements, &c., and in the latter case even ships. By the help of these discoveries we are able to reconstruct a fairly detailed picture of English civilization in the age preceding the invasion of Britain.

Authorities.—Bede, Hist. Ecc. i. 15: King Alfred's version of Orosius, i. 1. §§ 12, 19; Æthelweard's Chronicle, lib. i. For traditions concerning the kings of Angel, see under Offa (1). L. Weiland, Die Angeln (1889); A. Erdmann, Über die Heimat und den Namen der Angeln (Upsala, 1890—cf. H. Möller in the Anzeiger für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Litteratur, xxii. 129 ff.); A. Kock in the Historisk Tidskrift (Stockholm), 1895, xv. p. 163 ff.; G. Schütte, Var Anglerne Tyskere? (Flensborg, 1900); H. Munro Chadwick, The Origin of the English Nation (Cambridge, 1907); C. Engelhardt, Denmark in the Early Iron Age (London, 1866); J. Mestorf, Urnenfriedhöfe in Schleswig-Holstein (Hamburg, 1886); S. Müller, Nordische Altertumskunde (Ger. trans., Strassburg, 1898), ii. p. 122 ff.; see further Anglo-Saxons and Britain, Anglo-Saxon. (H. M. C.)